September 22, 2014
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - There's no such thing as "normal" weather in California wine country, and vineyard operators say that truism could mean good news for wine lovers this year.
After cool temperatures slowed ripening and kept grapes on the vine until fall in recent years, growers in the nation's premier wine region are facing a heat wave making for one of the earliest harvests in recent memory.
Weather hasn't been this warm across the Napa Valley since 1997, a year that produced a highly regarded vintage. If the heat continues as expected this year it could mean fruit-intensive wines from an early and abundant crop.
Wine grapes are one of California's top commodities, a crop worth $3.2 billion on the vine last year that created more than $34 billion worth of wine.
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